The ‘Smile’.

The ‘Smile’ is the name I give for when, regardless of how I’m feeling, if someone sees me I automatically smile.

I hate this. It’s not true to me. It’s a fake ‘I’m fine please don’t talk to me’ smile. It’s a way of hiding my feelings, putting distance between myself and everyone else and ensuring I don’t have to talk about what’s bothering me.

I must have learnt this from a young age as I’ve always done it. It goes along with masking to try to fit in and also avoid having to deal with things I didn’t (and still don’t) have the skills to deal with. I have something called Emotional Lability or Pseudobulbar Affect which causes me to cry uncontrollably when I feel simple emotions and sometimes for no particular reason. This makes it hard for me to communicate as I frequently start crying and cannot speak. In order to avoid these situations I fake a smile so no one knows anything is wrong. Unfortunately this is a double-edged sword. There are times when I’m upset and I want people to notice but the fake smile kicks in an overrides what I want. I can be in the middle of a meltdown and someone smiling at me will trigger the fake smile reflex. Ever smiled while angry tears are rolling down your face and you feel the need to break something? I have. It can be extremely conflicting as I’m feeling and acting one way but showing a completely different emotional response.

Of course the fake smile does have it’s good points. Like when I’m in a busy social setting. I can’t hear/understand a word a person is saying to me but the Smile is giving out all the right social ques. I can have no idea who a person is even though they seem to know me and they’ll have no idea that I don’t know. Someone can say something I disagree with but I’m smiling as if I agree, it prevents arguments and having to explain my reasoning, although it can be frustrating to feel so fake. When I’m speaking to people my auditory processing speed is way behind that of others. Rather than sitting mute for a couple minutes until my brain has caught up with what the person has said, the Smile takes over and gives the correct response before I even know what’s been said.

The Smile is often triggered in response to another person’s body language. If they smile at me or wave, I smile back. If they even look at me I smile. If a person is angry at me I smile, putting them off their anger and defusing them. If I accidentally bump/hurt/insult someone the Smile can make things better.

The Smile is reactive, it’s quick and it’s instinctive. It’s also a right pain in the bum and sometimes I wish I didn’t have it.

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